LA NOCHE DE LAS GAVIOTAS
AVAILABLE ON DVD
RUNNING TIME: 89 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, official HCF Critic
Several hundred years ago the evil Templar knights sacrifice a girl to their pagan god. Cut to the present day, and Victor, a doctor, arrives in a small seaside Spanish village along with his wife Maria, to set up practice. However, they get a very frosty reception from the locals and the doctor he’s replacing warns them to leave. That night he’s awoken by a procession to the beach but doesn’t see that a local girl is being led to her death. It turns out that for seven consecutive days every seven years, virgins are sacrificed to the Blind Dead in a pact to stop them destroying the village, and they won’t like it when interfering doctors try to scupper their plans….
Night Of The Seagulls, the fourth and final installment in the Blind Dead series, is a distinct improvement on the third episode and for the first half hour or so looks like it’s going to be very good indeed, better perhaps then the first two films. The film’s opening is really atmospheric, with a woman getting off a carriage surrounded by fog on a bridge and the Templers riding very quietly underneath; it reminded me of early Mario Bava or one of the Roger Corman Edgar Allan Poe adaptations. Things then proceed with a bloody heart ripping [almost the only gruesome bit in the film], and then we cut to to the present day with our hero and heroine arriving in one of those villages [obviously it’s not just in England] where the locals in the pub just stare at any visitors and a fairly strong feel of mystery is established. Weird nightly rituals, odd unpleasent details such as the cruel bullying in the village idiot and a great location. Echoes of The Wicker Man and mid-period Hammer. What can go wrong?
Well, one huge flaw soon becomes apparent, and it’s so annoying that it comes close to ruining the film. The night scenes [which comprise about half the film] are shot with day for night photography, except here the process obviously didn’t work and all the night scenes just look they take place mid morning or mid evening. At first I thought these were actually supposed to occur during the day, but I was clearly wrong about that. Anyway, this almost immediately ruins the atmosphere and becomes both laughable and irritating. I actually turned down the brightness on my TV for these scenes and they worked much better. It’s been ages since I’ve experienced one problem almost completely screw up a whole film.
The Blind Dead are as scary as ever and, while the film proceeds in a predictable way and seems to rehash bits and pieces from the first two movies, there’s the odd good idea, such as when Victor and a companion ride two of the Templar’s horses to escape and the creatures take them into their lair. There are some oddly poetic details, such as having the souls of the dead girl’s end up as seagulls who fly around at night, and once again Amando de Ossorio, who wrote as well as directed all the episodes in this series, has obviously attempted a different feel with this one, but sadly things do go downhill as he has trouble sustaining the quality of the first third. Two good points though – the acting is actually pretty reasonable, and for once there’s no rape. Hurrah!
This is undoubtedly fairly entertaining stuff for the undemanding horror fan [which I sometimes am], especially if you like the more traditional kind. It’s never boring despite its leisurely pace and certainly has some interesting details. Again, it shows its director being both good and bad, sometimes even at the same time, though he’s certainly being a far better director than a writer. However, the first third gave the impression this was going to be brilliant and it just doesn’t fulfill its promise, and of course there’s also that horrid day for night stuff. Honestly, it really lets the film down. Nevertheless all of these Blind Dead films have been fun, though I can’t help but think those terrific monsters deserve better. Put them in a good screenplay and/or with a director who cares about every single scene rather than just half of them, and you would really have a horror classic. Maybe one day….